Two years ago, one of my best friends invited me to a hot yoga class. Just like arriving in Amsterdam for my European bike tour, taking the first step on the Camino de Santiago, or landing in Delhi; my entre into the world of yoga began with a leap out of my cocoon of comfort. My favorite place to expand.
Yoga began over 5000 years ago and has become an accumulated body of knowledge. Most people think of the physical aspects of yoga that include twisting, stretching, and breathing. The meditative elements create a union of the mind, body, and soul. This harmony or inner peace allows the daily journey through life to become more meaningful, synchronous, and fulfilling.
Accomplishment and humility are staples of any practice. My favorite Indian teacher, Ashish, ushered me into the basics of the headstand pose. My first reaction was total fear including potential bodily injury and surely a bruised ego. After several attempts, I was found myself with blood rushing towards my inverted head, my untucked shirt exposing my belly, and my heels occasionally tapping the wall for support. I felt empowered. Two days later, I tried another series of complex poses without much success. Irritation and impatience began to bubble from my interior pool of frustration. One of my fellow students felt my less than blissful energy and reminded me that struggle is a fact of life. There is a reason it is called yoga practice and not yoga perfection.
As I pass the halfway point of this Indian journey, I find myself immersed in 2-3 hours of daily yoga practice. I am shedding lower back pain, gaining friends, and connecting to the interior divine. Restless sleep is easily conquered by replacing intrusive thoughts with the calming mantra of Om. After the morning class, most of the students meet at the juice bar for nourishment and conversation. My favorite (I Love Rishikesh) is a combination of pomegranate, pineapple, grapes, mint, cardamom, and cinnamon. Werner, my older old German yogi pal, man has an Om symbol on the back of his denim biker jacket. His wiry grey hair resembles Mozart and his infectious laughter roars above the buzzing blenders.
Sadvhiji is a devotee of Swamiji and often speaks at the nightly aarti ceremony on the bank of Mother Ganga. While congratulating the departing attendees of the Indo-China yoga festival, she reminded us all that the yoga learned on the mat ends quickly. Flexibility is lost during the flight home. She nailed it by explaining that the best yoga learned is Rishikesh is lived off the mat.
Here is what I try to take off the mat into my daily life:
Carve out an hour and try a class. Namaste!